Tuesday, July 31, 2018


Enough is Enough

"Enough is enough.”  Ganesan, nephew of the sage Ramana Maharshi, answered my distraught query about the trap I was in, trying to get folks to realize the massive stakes and commit to working against climate change with all their hearts and souls, all the while realizing at that late date (2016) it was too little, too late for this round of global civilization.  Ganesan indicated the message was coming to him from a deep place, outside his own thinking and willing.
I was taken aback, and spent the next days and weeks trying to qualify it.  Enough is enough for this strategy, this workshop model, this group?  I was wildly casting about, a stranded fish desperate for more water.  I have never been an activist down deep, but was driven to street actions and civil disobedience by the dire straits we were in.  I laid this out at the origins of this blog, now almost 15 years ago, and the blogscape is littered with examples of my reluctant activism.  Now, with a wise man passing on a clear message from the Universe, I balked at going back to my own contemplative nature, accepting the necessity of starting over.  Because, you see, we have this need to be consistent and faithful to our stories, even if they are the ones originating and being maintained by our little selves.

Earlier this month, I attended the Friends General Conference Gathering in Toledo.  The heart of these gatherings is always the week-long morning workshop. The one I joined was entitled “Primitive Quakerism Revived,” led by Paul  Buckley, who authored a little book by the same title.  Paul is calling for a third Quaker revival, and I resonated with his quietly provocative words, grounded in those of the early Quakers. I also quickly realized that this resonance was shaking the foundations of my call to focus on the global ecological crisis, primarily climate change, as my reason – and justification – for the privilege of being on Earth.

At lunch after our first session, Ganesan’s words suddenly resonated in my soul, enough is enough. My resistance to them dropped like a veil.  Because I had found it undeniable that the global ecocrisis was the problem overshadowing all others – and I still do – I had initially found it impossible to see my work as anything but fighting it, and trying to draw others into the fight.  But it does not follow that my soul’s calling is to attend this work before all others.  As I look over the last several years, I remember all the times folks insisted that the ecological crisis was a spiritual one.  Yes, yes, I would say, but those who were saying this were not briefing themselves on the science, and some of them didn’t even understand the systemic dimensions of the carbon cycle that has been thrown out of equilibrium. 

I titled this blog ecospirit, for I have been working at that boundary.  But pride has crept in, and I have judged those with less understanding of and appetite for the dismal revelations of climate science.  Correctly, I have named the resistance in those within the movement as well as on the part of climate deniers.  And I have not spared myself, recognizing that I rarely have the stomach any more to read the results of new studies that appear almost daily. 

Resistance has taken other forms.  I have been eldered four times for my climate doom remarks in Meeting.  Mercifully, this led to my being open to Spirit giving me messages other than the “one they need to hear.” But I have resisted these checks, telling myself – and sometimes implying to  sympathetic friends – that my Quaker Meeting elders were mainly protecting themselves from uncomfortable prophecy.  How could those in denial of the clear facts the Earth was laying before them judge me, who could see them so clearly?

And then there are the workshops I have led for a decade and a half.  Three and a half years ago, I led one entitled “Collapsing Consciously,” which went well for the participants, according to the feedback.  But it threw me into despair, and I contracted a series of terrible colds over the ensuing year, lasting as long as five weeks.  I had been offering a couple of workshops a year, but this caused me to stop and reframe.  Finally, I retooled, planning one for this June: “Deep Grief, Deep Hope, Deep Time.”  But as  registrations dragged, the memorial service for one of the early stalwarts of Celo Coummunity was scheduled for the same day, I canceled it. The truth is, I was having misgivings, not entirely sure why.

Prophets are ignored not just because the people are morally deaf.  Sometimes it’s because they have not lived into their own prophetic role.  I do not consciously consider myself a prophet, but have acknowledged a ‘prophetic dimension” to my call to climate ministry, one strong enough for me to take early retirement from my college teaching career.  Though the evidence was accumulating from many sides, I was too stubborn to see the immaturity of my call.

One of the Gathering’s plenary speakers was Reverend William Barber.  I had heard him speak before, but hearing him tune his message to a Quaker audience was a special joy.  His biblical story focused on  Ezekiel, who lived in times very much like the ones we are enduring today: unfit rulers, judges who countermined the law, a network of lies and abuses of power framing the Hebrew people. Ezekiel told Yahweh he was ready to go out and fight the corruption and hypocrisy, but God said, “STOP.”  He told the would-be prophet to lie face down for seven days in utter silence, then they could have a conversation about prophecy.  “The first Quaker,” Barber quipped. As we Quakers say, I had been “outrunning my leading,” unable to hear the still quiet voice within, even when a wise man voiced it to my face. I realized it was time to imitate Ezekiel, humbled into silence.

Many years ago an ultraconservative wrote in response to one of my letters to the editor that I was not a Christian, but a liberal tree-hugger and a pagan.  At the time I chuckled at his inability to see the nuances of my position. Later that week in Toldeo. I remembered his letter. Released from the huge burden of my self-chosen ministry (with initial nudgings from the Holy Spirit, to be sure), no longer requiring  climate justice to be the litmus test for everyone I met, while struggling to give friends and family (and myself!) a pass, I could see what he meant.  I had been in love with Creation, and her apologist.  If we love the Creator, the power within Her Creation, as prior to the wonders of this world, we open to an infinite mystery before which we need to fall down on our faces in utter silence, like Ezekiel. 

Yes, readers, climate change is the defining issue of our times, but it is intricately connected to all the others.  Just like the biosphere, morality is not a pyramid, but a web.  And it all flows from the Creator deep down at the heart of all things.  I sense that the direction of my ministry now is spending more time listening to my conservative Christian neighbors, exploring the interface between Christian universalist Quakerism and their salvation through Christ.  Where I can, I will steer the conversation to the work for climate justice, and connecting all the dots of God’s Creation restored.

Another critical election looms this fall. Reverend Barber thundered that the social gospel clearly fit the policies  of the Democratic Party, but told us not to be disheartened if we didn’t achieve immediate victory. Reviving Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign, he reminded us once again of aligning with “the long arc of justice.”  I will work in this election, but with my partisanship as a climate hawk and Democrat held in abeyance so I can try to listen for the still small voice rooted both in me and my Trumpian neighbors.
Our planet and our country are in deep peril.  But this is not the fault of one man or one benighted group of “deplorables.”  We are not only Democrats and Republicans, educated and ignorant, rich and poor.  We are a nation driven by fear, because we do not fear God enough.  And God is within each of us as our Root, as the early Quakers realized so radically.

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